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Red Fort, Delhi Kangra Fort
Bidar Fort, Bidar, Karnataka - Famous Forts of India
308    Dibyendu Banerjee    07/12/2023

Located in the hilltop city of Bidar in the north-eastern part of Karnataka, the Bidar Fort, officially known as Bidar Kote, was built by Sultan Ahmad Shah Al Wali Bahamani of the Bahmani Sultanate, the first Indo-Islamic Persianate kingdom in the Deccan, when he shifted his capital from Gulbarga in 1427. The fort complex, a mute witness to a lot of historical milestones, which include the rise and fall of Bahmani dynasty and ultimately being won by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in the siege of Bidar in 1657, contains more than 30 structures, which are on the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2014.

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Although the exact layout of the fort, built by Sultan Ahmad Shah Al Wali Bahamani, with its double lines of defensive fortifications, is no longer detectable, it is maintained by many that it was located in the western portion of the fort's present-day extent, from the Takht Mahal to the Kalmadi gate, which is confirmed by the historical records in the Tarikh-i Firishta, written by the Persian scholar Firishta, who worked as the court historian for the Deccan Sultanate in the 16th century.

bidar fort karnataka

History says, from the Kakatiya Dynasty, the old fort was captured by Prince Ulugh Khan, a general of the Delhi Sultanate ruler Alauddin Khalji, followed by the control of Muhammad Bin Tughlaq of the Tughlaq dynasty in the 14th century. Later, on 3 August 1347, Hassan Gangu, also known as Zafar Khan, a governor of the Sultanate led a revolt and established an independent dynasty of the Bahmani Sultanate in the Deccan.

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While Hassan Gangu changed his name to Ala-ud-din Bahaman Shah, establishing a new family name, the city of Bidar also began to grow and flourish under the new rule. Later, Ahmad Shah Al Wali Bahamani, also known as Sultan Ahmad Shah I, rebuilt the old fort of Bidar after shifting his capital from Gulbarga in 1427 and renovated it with brilliant fortifications, grand bastions, ramparts, big gates and royal palaces. After the fall of the Bahmani dynasty, the fort was captured first by the Barid Shahi and then the Adil Shahi dynasties, only to be won over by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in 1657.

bidar fort karnataka

Located on the edge of the Bidar plateau, the 1.21 km long and 0.80 km wide almost rhombus shaped Bidar Fort is primarily built of red laterite stone, which is said to be unearthed while digging the triple channeled moat around the south and the west sides of the fort.

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While the moats encircling the outer walls of the fort provided it a formidable line of defense, the stiff cliffs in the north and the south provide natural protection to the moat. The fort, equipped with 37 massive octagonal bastions built along the walls, is armed with cannons constructed out of welded metal put together with the help of metal hoops. The fort also has seven big arching gateways among which the Mandu Darwaza is the first one, followed by an intermediary Sharza Darwaza named after the lions carved onto it signifying the strength and power of the emperor, followed by the Delhi Darwaza, the Kalmadi Darwaza, the Kalyani Darwaza, the Carnatic Darwaza and finally the looming Gumbad Darwaza with ethnic Persian architecture leading into the main complex.

bidar fort karnataka

One of the unique features of the Bidar Fort is its water supply system called karez, which originated in Persia and the technology was brought to the Deccan by the Brahmani kings in the 15th century to provide drinking water to the villagers, along with the fort, as the rocky soil in Bidar makes access to drinking water very difficult. The system basically consists of network underground canals, connected by vertical shafts to the surface and the system taps into groundwater or natural springs and transports it through the tunnel to the settlement. The system in Bidar is equipped with 21 vertical shafts and extends for about 2 kilometres.

bidar fort karnataka
Rangeen Mahal

Apart from the Diwan-i-Aam, a high walled audience hall containing three rows of six pillars each, with entrances on the eastern and western sides, the fort complex includes several Mahals, which include the colourful Rangeen Mahal Palace, named for its walls decorated with coloured tiles. Constructed by Mahmud Shah in 1487, especially for the queen, its entrance showcases intricate mother of pearl on jet black basalt stone and has underground rooms for providing relief during the long summer days. The Gagan Mahal, constructed during the same period and known for its security and beauty, also served as a residential complex for royalties.

bidar fort karnataka
Tarkash Mahal

The Tarkash Mahal was probably built for the Turkish wife of a Bahmani sultan of Bidar in the 14th-15th century, but the remains of the decorative work found in the ornamentation of the walls suggest that the upper parts of the Mahal were built or extended by the Barid Shahi Sultans. There is a big hall in the middle of the building with arched openings and beautifully decorated with tiles and stucco work, the roof of which has collapsed. Today, there is no access to the inner parts of the building due to its ruined condition.

bidar fort karnataka
Takht Mahal

Situated to the western side of the Bidar Fort and reflecting an amalgamation of Persian and Islamic style, the Takht Mahal or the Throne Room was once a royal residence, containing a hot water swimming pool, carved with granite materials from all sides. It shelters an extravagant Durbar Hall, which has witnessed the coronation of many Bahmani and Barid Shahi rulers over the years.

bidar fort karnataka
bidar fort karnataka
Solah Khamba Mosque

The Bidar Fort also houses the Solah Khamba mosque, a masterpiece built by Qubil Sultani in 1423-24 AD and named for its 16 pillars in the front. Considered to be a good example of the Deccan style of architecture, it was constructed in 1432 and restored by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb in 1656, who probably used it for prayer during his visits to the Deccan. The huge structure of the mosque, constructed in the middle of a garden, seems more impressive for its majestic central dome above the long arches and the clerestory windows with perforated geometrical screens.

Red Fort, Delhi Kangra Fort
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Author Details
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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